Elk NetworkWhen a bull breaks a tine, does his rack grow back whole next year?

Conservation | April 24, 2018

It depends. If the antler has hardened to bone, the answer is yes. If the injury happens while the antlers are still covered in velvet, that tine will likely grow strangely and may well fork or sprout sticker points every year for the rest of the bull’s life.

The annual rut is like UFC for elk, but with way more on the line. The winners of the savage battles procreate and pass on their genes, the losers don’t. It’s a good bet that both sides will suffer some injuries in the process. Sometimes these injuries extend to the weapons themselves, and a bull can come out of battle with a point or two missing from his majestic crown. Fortunately, even if the main beam itself is snapped in half, once the bull sheds his damaged goods in the spring, he’ll return to the rut next year with his new rack fully intact. The one exception is if the pedicle sustains a direct blow, which may cause the entire beam to grow at a crazy angle every year.

Some people speculate that antlers are more brittle in times of drought. Given the force with which two mature bulls collide, it’s a wonder their antlers don’t break far more often than they do, dry year or no.